NEW ORLEANS (BP) -- The recommendation of "Great Commission Baptists" as a descriptive name and the prospective election of the first ever African American president are on the horizon for the Southern Baptist Convention's June 19–20 meeting in New Orleans.
Messengers will decide whether to adopt the informal, non-legal "Great Commission Baptists" descriptor as recommended by the SBC Executive Committee, embracing the suggestion of a special task force appointed to study changing the SBC's name, deemed by some a regional barrier to the Gospel.
"The overwhelming acceptance of the Executive Committee was the first major step," SBC President Bryant Wright said of the proposed descriptor. "Obviously, the decision of the convention will be most important. If approved, our entities will lead the way in using the descriptor. I think it will be a 10- to 20-year process of helping Southern Baptists and the general public to think, 'those people really are Great Commission Baptists,' when they think of us."
Fred Luter Jr., senior pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans and current SBC first vice president, currently is unopposed for the SBC presidency. Luter would be the first African American to hold the post, on the heels of the SBC's historic 2011 measure calling for greater accountability among its entities regarding ethnic diversity in leadership. David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans, is expected to nominate Luter.
"Our election of Fred Luter as the first African American president of the SBC will send a great, hopeful, powerful message to our city, our culture, our convention and our country," Crosby has said. "For many, it will make them rethink who Southern Baptists are, and it will help us reach the new diversity that we find in our cities. It is a statement that people of all ethnic groups make up the Southern Baptist Convention and are honored."
The annual meeting will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the 2005 source of troubling images as thousands suffered hunger, thirst and lack of medical care as victims of Hurricane Katrina. The center has undergone $92.7 million in improvements since the storm, according to press reports.
"Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations" is the annual meeting theme, drawn from Luke 24:47-48 and worded to convey the importance of dual missions at home and abroad, Wright said.
"Last year in Phoenix, God moved so powerfully it seemed more like a missions conference than a denominational business meeting," Wright said. "It is my hope that with Jesus: to the Neighborhood and the Nations, we will once again see God's Spirit convicting us and motivating us to fulfill Christ's Great Commission."
Wright said his prayer is that messengers will have a "loving and caring Christian witness" at the annual meeting, "that the spirit of our messengers will be Christ-like to all we come in contact with."
Concluding his final term as SBC president, Wright described his tenure as faith-enriching, energizing and exhausting, referencing the godly passion of young seminarians, the church-planting efforts of the North American Mission Board, frequent travel and communication opportunities, among other experiences.
"It has been energizing to see how God is leading us to embrace the unengaged and unreached people groups of the world," Wright said. "It has been energizing to preach the Gospel in so many settings, from small country churches to mega-churches in our great cities, and from churches in Egypt to students at Harvard.
"Two years is plenty," he said of his tenure. "Although by the time you have some idea of the vast scope of Southern Baptist ministries around the world you're going out of office."
Hundreds of volunteers will participate in Crossover mission outreach projects June 15–16, including church planting, evangelistic block parties, health screenings, prayerwalks and servant evangelism.
New Orleans Baptists aim to launch four new churches in the city this year, two of them during the annual meeting, said Jack Hunter, executive director of the New Orleans Baptist Association.
"Our churches are becoming well-trained in evangelism and will lead the way in reaching our communities through Crossover events," Hunter said. "Our leaders want to create a culture of evangelism in the association, and Crossover, followed closely by other outreach events in succeeding weeks, will help do that."
Southern Baptists have ministered extensively in New Orleans since 2005's Hurricane Katrina, helping to rebuild the city.
"Southern Baptists were here with us when we were recovering and mourning with us when we were getting back on our feet," Hunter said. "And Southern Baptist work is still going as New Orleans is reborn."
To learn more about Crossover New Orleans and to volunteer, visit joinnoba.com/crossover.
Churches and volunteers interested in partnering long-term with a New Orleans church plant may participate in City Uprising, June 13-16. Crossover is partnering with the ministry, which is based in Baltimore, to coordinate missions opportunities in New Orleans for volunteers of all ages. Register at www.cityuprising.com.
COOPERATIVE PROGRAM EXHIBIT
The Cooperative Program booth in the SBC exhibit hall will enjoy increased visibility, positioned next to the booths of the International and North American mission boards. The CP booth will feature two large, high definition video screens displaying live video interviews, panel discussions and live Twitter feeds. Similar positioning of the CP booth at the 2011 annual meeting attracted a wide array of SBC leaders and emphasized the benefits of Southern Baptists' channel of support for state, national and international missions and ministries.
-- Southern Baptist pastors will focus on changing their communities and the world at the 2012 Pastors' Conference, June 17-18 at the convention center. "Changing: Lives, Communities and the World" is the theme, with sessions scheduled Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and Monday at 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 and 6 p.m. Speakers will include David Jeremiah, David Platt, Fred Luter Jr., Johnny Hunt and Jack Graham. Honoring Father's Day, pastors will spotlight the father-son teams of Bailey and Josh Smith, Ronnie and Nick Floyd, Don and Rob Wilton and Tony and Anthony Evans.
-- Woman's Missionary Union will hold its missions celebration in the convention center's La Nouvelle Orleans Ballroom, 3–7 p.m. Sunday and continuing throughout Monday, beginning at 9 a.m. Speakers will include Wanda Lee, WMU national executive director; David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans; Jay and Kathy Shafto, IMB field personnel; Damian Emetuche and Stacy Smith, NAMB field personnel, and Debby Akerman, national WMU president. Participants are encouraged to bring donations to area ministries, including hygiene kits, snack packs and gift cards.
-- NFL quarterback Tim Tebow's mother, Pam Tebow, will address the 2012 Pastors' Wives Conference, scheduled from 8:30–11:45 a.m. Monday, June 18, in the convention center's Hall B-1. After ESPN aired the portion of an interview with Pam Tebow that focused on her refusal to abort "Timmy" when she was advised to do so, she has gained a national platform for the pro-life message. Attendees will also hear a testimony from Jeannie Elliff, wife of International Mission Board President Tom Elliff, and a roundtable discussion about parenting children of ministers. Women who serve in any facet of local church leadership, missions and denominational work are invited to attend the free event. Registration is not required.
-- The Southern Baptist Conference of Associational Directors of Missions will emphasize passion in ministry, June 17-18 in Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, 3939 Old Gentilly Blvd. Fred Luter and Richard Blackaby will be among the speakers. General meetings are scheduled 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday and 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. Tuesday, with breakout sessions 1:30–4:30 p.m.
Conveniently register online at www.sbcannualmeeting.net, under the Messengers tab.
After online registration, each messenger will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the annual meeting's Express registration lane. There, the registration code can be entered into a computer and a nametag will be printed.
The traditional registration method also is available.
Messengers wishing to propose resolutions must submit them at least 15 days prior to the annual meeting. Detailed guidelines on submitting resolutions are available at www.sbcannualmeeting.net under the Messengers tab. Resolutions may be submitted online but must be followed up by a letter of credentials from the submitter's church.
Shuttle service will be available Sunday through Wednesday to and from the convention center from select hotels noted at www.sbcannualmeeting.net, under the Housing and Travel tab. Shuttle passes are available online for $12 and onsite for $15, with service provided 3–10 p.m. Sunday; 7 a.m.–10 pm. Monday; and 7 a.m.–7 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday.
Shuttle service to and from the airport to hotels is available for $35 roundtrip; tickets must be purchased online at least 24 hours in advance of flight arrivals.
CHILDREN AND STUDENTS
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief childcare volunteers will offer childcare for newborns through age 5 during the SBC Pastors' Conference and the annual meeting. Childcare is $20 per child for each of the events, not to exceed $40 per family per event. There is a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.
Lunch for preschoolers will be available for $5 Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Children in Action and Youth on Mission will offer activities June 19-20 for older children.
Children in Action, for children entering grades 1-6, will challenge children to live Christ-centered lives. Children in Action is $35 per child, along with a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.
Youth on Mission will teach students entering grades 7–12 to link Bible study with missional living. WMU leaders, students and adults who have been third-culture kids will lead participants in mission work in New Orleans neighborhoods and bring them back to the convention center at each day's end for prayer and debriefing.
Youth on Mission is $50 per child, along with a $10 non-refundable registration fee per child.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press' staff writer.